Reception area tips

Why Your Company Might Need a “Director of First Impressions”

A receptionist’s role has evolved so much over past decades that it’s almost indistinguishable from what it once was, as we wrote in our post on the history of receptionists. Today’s receptionist still has one major job in common with the receptionists of the 1950s: welcoming visitors.

You may have noticed that our software specializes in automating the task of checking visitors in. It does things like collect information, document legal signatures, print visitor badges, and notify hosts, all via a tablet. However, even the best software can only go so far when it comes to physically welcoming visitors.

For example, it can’t make sure that the check-in process is tailored to your company’s needs or is updated with the required documents as they change. It certainly can’t offer the visitor a cold drink or point them in the direction of the bathroom. And it can’t take a look around your company’s lobby and suggest ways to make seating areas more comfortable.

Because the role of welcoming visitors is so important, especially for businesses whose clients or customers are in the office a lot, many companies are doing away with the title “receptionist” in favor of something more accurate: “Director of First Impressions.”

Here’s a little more about why you might want to follow suit for your own office.

Why First Impressions Are so Important

Plenty of studies have been done on the power of first impressions, particularly when it comes to people. The consensus is that impressions happen very quickly and have a tendency to reinforce themselves.

For more on all the ways your office can make a good first impression, download this bonus resource: Visitor Impression Checklist

For example, research shows that people make up their minds about others after seeing their face for a fraction of a second. Even if those impressions aren’t accurate and don’t reflect the true nature of the person, they can still have a big effect on behavior. For example, people who appear to be more trustworthy based on nothing but their facial structure and features get better loan terms and are more likely to win political elections.

You can see how these first impressions could lead to self-reinforcing behavior, or what this Entrepreneur article calls a “self-fulfilling feedback loop.”

As the article explains: “If you make a poor first impression on someone, then you’ll be on the receiving end of aloof or unfriendly behavior in turn. You are more likely to reciprocate this aloof behavior, reinforcing the person’s initial bad impression.”

With that in mind, consider that if someone walks into your office and makes a snap judgement that your company is competent, professional and trustworthy, they’re likely view all of the following interactions through that lens. That can pay off big time if they’re visiting for a job interview or a meeting to investigate a potential partnership.

Reception area tips

Switching the “Reception” Role From Passive to Active

The term “receptionist” is passive by its very nature. It’s a holdover from when front office staff used to wait for the phone to ring or someone to walk in so they could “receive” the calls and visitors.

Although that was rarely the full extent of a receptionist’s job, changing the receptionist’s title to something like “Director of First Impressions” has a way of turning any expectation of passivity into an expectation of action. The new title clarifies that the person who sits at the front desk should be taking responsibility for designing an ideal visitor experience.

There are plenty of ways that front desk staff can take ownership of that visitor experience, from suggesting improvements to the lobby’s decor to streamlining the procedure used at check-in. But there are also other visitor management responsibilities that tie into those first impressions to make visitor management a potentially full-time position. Here are just a few:

  • Understanding the legal aspect of making sure visitors are checked in properly (waivers signed, safety videos viewed, etc.)
  • Making sure that emergency evacuation procedures are updated and understood by staff and visitors
  • Making sure that supplies that visitors and the rest of the staff use (refreshments, coffee, water) are always ready to go
For more on all the factors that go into making a good first impression on people who visit your office, download this bonus resource: Visitor Impression Checklist

Note that the title “Director of First Impressions” doesn’t imply that this employee can’t also play other roles in your company. Especially in smaller organizations, it’s understood that everyone has to jump in and wear many hats. For example, it’s understood that a director of marketing will occasionally work on ads or product design or jump in to help on customer service as needed. But they still know what their primary job is at the company.

Why Job Titles Matter

The more accurate job title of “Director of First Impressions” does more than clarify your front desk staff’s role. It can also be great for morale.

It establishes front desk workers as integral to the office team and the company’s overall mission. The title “director” also acknowledges the fact that an administrator’s work is often as important as anyone else on staff, regardless of how much of their work is in a supportive role. As this Executive Secretary piece notes, “The mantra of modern administrative professionals is ‘No job is too big or too small.’” Although most administrators still occasionally get tasked with relatively thankless jobs (such as watering the office plants), they’re also trusted to take on big, mission-critical issues.

That’s why their titles are changing, too. Other than Director of First Impressions, companies have opted for titles like Administrative Chief of Staff, Chief Executive Administrator, and Director of Administration.

These job titles show that your company values people in the role, and these kinds of titles can also make it easier to recruit candidates who have more experience and initiative.

Skills Required for a Potential Director of First Impressions

If you’re considering hiring someone whose role will be dedicated to making sure that your company makes a great first impression on visitors, these are a few of the core skills that may come in handy:

Branding knowledge – The savviest candidates for a Director of First Impression position will understand that they are actually brand ambassadors, making sure that the company’s character is reflected in the reception area, the visitor experience, and by themselves personally as visitors arrive.

Administrators may still get stuck watering the office plants, but they also tackle big, mission-critical issues. #thereceptionist Click To Tweet

Language skills – Because they will be communicating so often with visitors and relaying information back and forth between the rest of the staff, the ability to write and speak clearly is paramount. Many organizations may benefit from employees who speak more than one language, ideally the languages most likely to be encountered at the front desk.

Industry-specific knowledge – The Director of First Impressions will be representing your company to the public, so they should be willing to learn about the ins and outs of the technical side of your industry if they don’t already.

Customer service skills – At The Receptionist, we’re huge advocates for customer-focused business practices. We understand that customer service is something that each and every employee should consider their jobs, and that great services takes both enthusiasm and skill. (Related Post: Defining Radical Customer Support.)

Do you currently have a “receptionist” or “administrator” on staff who deserves an upgraded title? Maybe you can change it as part of an upcoming promotion or after a regularly scheduled performance review. Consider which new responsibilities will come along with their new title, but also which current tasks could be delegated to others, or to software. Tools like The Receptionist visitor management system are perfect for automating some of the important but tedious work of checking in visitors, which can free your front desk staff to work on the big picture. Click here to learn more about The Receptionist visitor management software.

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